Instructor's experience inspires new autism therapy degree program at Capilano College

    NORTH VANCOUVER, Jan. 10 /CNW/ - Ellen Domm knows intimately how
thousands of families in B.C. suffer due to a scarcity of qualified
professionals to treat children with autism and related developmental
disorders such as Asperger's syndrome.
    And the Capilano psychology instructor hopes a unique applied behavior
analysis (ABA) bachelor's degree program inspired by her family's experience,
which the college is launching in 2009, will help alleviate what she says is
clearly a staffing crisis.
    When Domm's seven-year-old son, Levi, was diagnosed at age three with
autism, a condition affecting the brain's normal development of social and
communication skills, she and her husband Perri immediately decided on an ABA
treatment program.
    Although the scientifically validated therapy would be expensive - as
much as three times the province's $20,000 annual subsidy for autistic
children up to age six, after which it drops to $6,000 - it was their son's
best hope for improvement.
    But when they tried to assemble a behaviour interventionist team to
implement the program, Domm said they quickly found out how difficult that
    "Even though we had a pool of Capilano students to draw from and train,
the turnover rate is quite high," she said, "and we went through 14 therapists
in two years."
    Autism is now the most common childhood developmental or neurological
disorder in the country, affecting more than 4,300 children in B.C.
    "But we have only a handful of board certified behaviour analysts," said
Domm, "and they have lengthy waiting lists."
    So, she thought, why not offer an ABA course at Capilano with a practical
component so families can count on steady pool of motivated students to work
with their kids.
    She pursued the idea with fellow Capilano psychologist Cara Zaskow and
with her help, and input from autism families and professionals, the course
has mushroomed into Canada's first ABA bachelor's degree program. Scheduled to
begin next January, it will operate as a cohort program, accepting about
20 students with associate degrees in psychology to train for work with autism
cases, among others.
    "They'll be qualified to become board certified associate behavior
analysts, earning at least $40 an hour to start," said Domm. "Or they can
pursue a master's degree in ABA, special education or psychology."
    Thanks in large part to his therapy, Levi, a high-functioning autistic,
is now an attentive, affectionate boy. He attends a mainstream Grade 2 class
and receives 12 hours a week of academic and behavioral therapy at home.
    "I still worry about his future," Domm said, "but what mother doesn't?
And I'm pleased that Capilano will soon be producing the professionals the
autism community so desperately needs so other families won't be left in the
lurch like we were."

    Capilano College serves the communities of the Lower Mainland, Howe
Sound, and the Sunshine Coast through campuses in North Vancouver, Squamish
and Sechelt. Enrolment totals 6,800 students in credit programs each term with
an additional 7,000 people taking non-credit courses annually. Capilano offers
a complete range of preparatory courses, university transfer courses, business
and management studies, creative and applied arts programs, health and human
services programs, plus a range of services in support of student learning and
success. Credentials awarded include bachelor degrees, associate degrees,
post-baccalaureate diplomas, advanced diplomas, diplomas, certificates and
statements of completion.

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Shelley Kean, Tel: (604) 983-7596

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